Watchuseek Blog

Friday, August 19, 2011

The 'world's first watch designer' Gerald Genta dies at 80

The death has been announced of Gerald Genta, one of the most important Swiss watch designers of the 20th century.

Born in Geneva in May 1931, Genta was imbued not only with an Italian flair for design, but also a meticulous approach with the rigorous disciplined technical qualities inherent to the Swiss watchmaking tradition.

He established himself in 1961 as the world’s first ‘watch designer’. By 1969 he formed Gerald Genta, his own highly successful watch manufacture. In addition to his own line of timepieces, Genta also contributed significantly to the designs of Swiss luxury watch brands including IWC, Universal Geneve, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, among several others.

Genta designed IWC's classic Jumbo Ingenieur in 1970. He was also famous for designing Patek Philippe's Nautilus model and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. It was Genta who first introduced the then revolutionary idea of stainless steel for luxury sports watches.

Some of Genta's most important designs included a sonnerie, the GĂ©rald Genta Octo Granda Sonnerie Tourbillion, which has four gongs and rings the Westminster Quarters melody at each quarter and on the hour, ‘the same melody rung out by London's Big Ben’, and cost over $810,00.

In 1994 he designed his masterpiece, the Grande Sonnerie Retro, the world's most complicated wristwatch, priced at $2 million.

After his eponymous company was sold first to Singapore's Hour Glass and two years later to Bulgari, Genta resigned from the company and created a new venture called Gerald Charles in 2001. Here he continued to design important watches such as the Tourbillon Miroir Maestro. Many of his designs for Gerald Charles are sold out.

In 2011 several online watch blogs reported about a watch that Genta had recently designed for the Swedish watch brand Arlanch although only a sketch was submitted. The watch is said to be automatic and uses a Swiss made La Joux-Perret calibre 3532 movement - a mechanism that offers 44 hours of power reserve and beats at 28,800 Vph. With design drafts, signed by the great master, the watych features the octagonal case design that recalls the original Royal Oak, by Audemars Piguet.

Gerald Genta died on August 17th at the age of 80. His legacy of superb watch design will live on.

Gerald Charles Genta, May 1st 1931 – August 17th 2011

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